By Vincent Baptist
Over the last year and a half, I helped out with the development of the CREATE research agenda on the data-driven history of performing arts by setting up an inventory of existing databases within Europe concerning film, theatre and music performances (1600-present). Mapping existing data projects on performing arts allows to advance one of the long-term goals of the CREATE program, namely to examine the feasibility and possibilities for organizing and carrying out more transnational and cross-disciplinary historical research into performing arts. In this respect, it is crucial to know what kind of large-scale datasets concerning the history of film, theatre and music performances have already been set up in other European countries, and which initiating institutions and scholars can be approached as potential research partners in the future.
While several selection criteria had to be taken into account in order to identify relevant performing arts databases, the overall MEPAD inventory ended up with around 70 data projects. An equal amount of related projects and non-European initiatives was found, that could not be considered as genuine databases, but nevertheless held valuable information and digitized sources concerning performing arts history. With regard to the collected cinema data projects, it immediately became clear that most of them are concerned with the early and silent film period. Additionally, whereas most existing film databases seemed to be set up by scholars affiliated to universities, a large part of the identified theatre and music data projects originate from and are maintained by cultural institutions (such as the actual theatre and music venues that are the subject of the collected data). When future cross-national research initiatives and dataset aggregations will be set up, these factors need to be taken into account, together with adjacent concerns regarding the preservation and curation of online accessible data. While an interdisciplinary and international research consortium is currently being set up to work towards the establishment of a ‘European Performing Arts Dataverse’, the interim inventory of performing arts data projects can currently be consulted here.
Vincent Baptist completed a BA in Applied Economics and Media Studies, and is currently finishing a Research Master in Media Studies – Film Studies at the University of Amsterdam. At CREATE, he worked as a student assistant in History of Performing Arts on the research project ‘Mapping European Performing Arts Data’ (MEPAD).